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Going Dutch

In response to:

Illusions About Energy from the August 9, 1973 issue

To the Editors:

I’ve written the following letter to Emma Rothschild because, after four years absence from the USA, during a recent two-week visit, I was somewhat shocked that the only way I could get around in suburbia was by car. I’m lucky to be able to cycle to work even in this crowded city and to be able to take vacations in places where cycling is not hazardous. Cycling enthusiasts will be pleased to know that autos are not allowed on two Dutch islands.

Dear Ms. Rothschild:

Your observation in “Illusions About Energy” [NYR, August 9, 1973] that half of all auto trips are for less than three miles particularly impressed me after my three-week bicycling holiday in Holland.

Did you know that a child of five or an infirm person in a wheelchair could travel the length and width of the country safely? This is due to the unique system of cycle roads that accompany almost every auto road. Even the expressways have cycleways (thankfully some distance away).

The result? Most housewives use a cycle to do their shopping. Teenagers visit friends across town on their own (not being driven by mom).

The personal freedom of mobility that this middle system of “roads” gives does not exist, sadly, in the USA and certainly must give the Dutch the most highly developed transportation system in the world.

Fortunately their government in the Hague seems committed to maintaining the bicycle as a major form of transportation. The Dutch Railways even do their part by renting cycles from eighty stations.

Robert B. Nicodemus

London, England

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